Field Guide to Greeting New People

Have you ever met someone new and you weren’t really sure how to greet him or her? (I’m going to assume your answer is yes, because you’re human.) Do you shake her hand, give her a kiss on the cheek (and maybe the other cheek if you’re in Europe or extra sophisticated) or offer a small wave, a high five or just a smile? Or do you give her the mother of all greetings: a hug? If you choose to greet her with a hug and she doesn’t hug you back, will your feelings be hurt? Shailene Woodley, star of the film Divergent (released in theaters on Friday!), hugs everyone she meets and, according to The Huffington Post, most have no idea it’s coming, but they aren’t mad about it.

Are we entering a more casual age of greetings where hugging is the norm? Is it better to take a chance and surprise people with warmth, or is it better keep a safe distance in an attempt to keep things professional and allow for personal space?

Meeting new people can be fun and exciting, but also confusing and nerve-racking. So, here’s a field guide to greeting new people:

The Handshake

The Handshake is the most common greeting. It’s ritualistic and the go-to greeting for professional encounters, and it’s the most widely accepted. But shaking someone’s hand lacks warmth, and not surprisingly, handshakes are the germiest of all the greetings. Who knows where other people’s hands have been? Who knows where OUR hands have been? Also, handshakes date as far back as the 5th century BC in ancient Greece, so maybe it’s time we evolve this routine greeting into something more sincere and less gross.

The Double-handed Handshake

This generally indicates that the person you are meeting values you and wants you to know. That’s a great feeling. So, perhaps if you need to stick with the handshake, throw in the other hand for good measure. It may also imply physical attraction though, so double-handed handshake at your own discretion.

The Pound

It doesn’t get much more casual than the pound. However, there’s definite room for awkwardness. If someone’s going for the handshake, and you feel a sudden sense of bro-ship, switching it up to the hand pound makes total sense. But keep in mind, not everyone’s on board with pounding (or the word bro-ship). Even if they feel the last second casualness, switching it up so abruptly is cause for pound shaking (when the handshake meets the pound), and it’s likely going to get ugly.

The Wave

If you want to come off disconnected and uninterested, wave. Yes, sometimes we meet people in passing that we barely share two words with, but everyone likes feeling important. By waving, we are letting them know that they aren’t important enough to make physical contact.

The High Five

Some of you won’t agree with me on this one, but that’s okay, because life would be pretty boring if we all agreed on everything. I think high-fiving is really great. It’s fun, playful and casual. Of course, you probably want to steer clear of high-fiving your potential employer during an interview, or the Rabbi at your grandpa’s funeral or when you’re meeting your future in-laws for the first time. But generally, high-fiving lightens the mood when meeting new friends, and shows people that you’re up for laughing and having a fun time (unless you aren’t, in which case the handshake might be your best option).

The Smile

Smiling is a great thing to do when you pass by a stranger on the street (or anywhere strangers hang out). However, smiling is not a genuine greeting for someone you are meeting, even though so many of us think it is. Smiling is a physical reaction to something happy or funny, but it doesn’t say to someone, “Hey, it’s really great meeting you!”. It says, “I am meeting you and am moderately neutral about it.”

The Head Nod 

Speaking of neutral, if you want to acknowledge someone’s presence, but you don’t want to take it any steps further or make a new friend, give a head nod.

The Hug

This is the greeting of all greetings. It’s no secret that physical touch can actually improve your mood. Imagine that a lady has just stepped on your foot. If she apologizes and keeps walking, you probably won’t feel her sincerity. But if she apologizes while touching your shoulder, you’d probably feel the sincerity right away. Hugging someone shows that you care, and caring about someone you are meeting for the first time is truly a genuine, loving and tolerant way to live. And what a different world we’d live in if we all gave more hugs.

Now, for your safety and the safety of the people around you, watch this BuzzFeed video on the types of greetings to never do:

When you meet new people, what greeting do you usually use? Are you a hugger?

Featured image via ShutterStock

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